When I’m not stuck at home “sheltering in place”, I spend about half my time on the road traveling to tech shows, analyst events, and consulting meetings across the country and many times internationally. During that time, I am often working from hotel rooms and airports with a thin notebook hooked up to one or two external USB-C monitors. But when I am working out of my office in Austin, TX, I prefer a more powerful system with a much larger display that will allow me to maximize my limited desk real estate.
Dell sent me a Dell Optiplex 7070 Ultra system to review which is Dell’s crack at a fully modular zero-footprint, ultra-compact PC. The Optiplex 7070 Ultra’s value proposition lies in its ability to alleviate the pains of complicated, clunky desktop design and provide users with easy upgradability thanks to a removable client. I spent a couple of weeks reviewing the system and using it as my primary office PC, below are my thoughts.
Out of the box, the Optiplex 7070 Ultra looks like what you would come to expect from an all-in-one PC: a display with a thin client hidden within. But the main difference and most compelling part of the Dell Optiplex 7070 Ultra is the ultra-compact, removable PC that I had to install into the display. It was very straight forward putting the system together and I was able to do so without any tools. The only assembly required was dropping the removable client in the back of the display stand, replacing the back cover, connecting the monitor to the PC and finally plugging in the power supply.
Thanks to USB-C tech this PC only required a single power chord to power the display and client. The system also shipped with an entry-level set of wireless peripherals that are suitable for quick stow away. I was surprised that the PC module itself is only 10.8” tall and 3.78” wide. Although I cycle through systems often, for most users it is reassuring when purchasing a system that you're not stuck with a single size, non-upgradeable display, and configuration. I can see the benefit of a removable client in its ability to switch out your display size based use case or upgrade the client to add more performance. I was given the top configuration Core i7 with a 27” display and I liked the size of the system for my workspace. But if that model size doesn’t work best for you feel free to pair the Optiplex 7070 Ultra with other Dell USB-C monitors ranging from 22”-27”. Although the size range on the display currently is limited, I expect to see more support for larger displays in the future.
The Optiplex 7070 Ultra gave me a high enough performance ceiling to do everything I wanted for my analyst use case. I wouldn’t recommend heavy-duty 3D modeling but for everyday office work on Microsoft 365 apps, it’s more than enough. With an NVMe SSD, the system booted fast and connected to WiFi quickly and the connection remained strong throughout the workday. The Optiplex 7070 Ultra also supports Wi-Fi 6 technology which is a real plus if you have the right router. My work tasks typically look like taking notes in OneNote, using Outlook for email and calendaring, doing hours of web research, writing articles and whitepapers and joining 5-10 video or collaboration calls on Skype, Teams, or Webex. I was able to tax the system and it still had plenty of performance to run all the operations that are essential to my business. I didn’t experience any lag when switching between tasks or working with several different Office applications at once.
To get a better grasp of the performance ceiling I will note that the Optiplex 7070 Ultra comes with 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8265U, i5-8365U, and i7-8565U mobile chips. These chips are usually embedded within laptop designs and configured to 15W TDP but in this instance, Intel configured the CPUs to 25W for an extra performance boost. I need to mention that my loaner system was the top configuration with a 27” display and Core i7-8565U processor so I cannot fully attest to the performance of the lower-tier configuration of this system. My loaner came with 32GB of DDR4 RAM and a 1TB hard drive but is also upgradable with up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM and two 1 TB hard drives. I recommend 64GB and NVMe. Hard drives are so 2010. Although I store most of my data in the cloud, the storage and memory in a client this small are impressive. All in all, this system performed well for my use case and gave me more performance and a larger display vs. that of my laptop. To be fair, this system isn’t going to replace your desktop as your go-to for gaming or 3D or video content creation but will be a front runner for productivity and business users.
My Optiplex 7070 Ultra review unit had some features that were worth noting including Always On Power Delivery, NVMe SSDs, Wi-Fi 6 support and USB-C monitors for reduced cabling. The most compelling one for me was the Always On Power Delivery feature. This feature prevents hard shutdowns if the monitor is turned off on accident, preventing the loss of data. Preventing hard shutdowns can save hours worth of work and I view Always On as a sort of data insurance policy. Rather than relying on that feature, I would advocate for AutoSave to the cloud but it never hurts to have a backup plan. The system also comes standard with NVMe SSD options for quick booting and Wifi 6 support for lower latency, greater range, and faster connectivity speeds. If you are in to display stand customization there are options for that as well. I found the display stand plenty compact for my liking but you can also opt to ditch the standard display stand for a Dell monitor arm or a wall mount for even more of a minimalist workspace if desired.
Ports and I/O
The Optiplex 7070 Ultra came with about how many ports I anticipated including 3 USB ports, 2 USB-C ports, 1 audio jack, and an ethernet jack. It is worth noting one of the USB-C ports will have to be dedicated to connecting the display to the client. It was easy to connect my normal wired peripherals including a pair of wireless headphones, wired mouse and keyboard, and phone charger but I quickly realized I could use a few more ports. Then I found the extra ports on the display which enabled me to hook up my external webcam and podcasting microphone to record some new podcast episodes.
After a thorough review of the Optiplex 7070 Ultra, I can deem it an attractive ultra-compact, zero-footprint system for productivity and business use cases. For my use cases of running day-to-day business operations, the system performed well with no lag or hiccups along the way. I conducted consulting meetings, wrote articles, video-conferenced and prepped presentations with ease. I could see this system working well for businesses that have multiple users use a single system or in an open work environment where employees need to log in quickly and get to work. For those wanting to outfit their business with a simple, easy to use PC the Optiplex 7070 Ultra could be a potentially viable solution. I believe Dell is onto something with this simplistic, upgradable AIO solution, especially for businesses and consumers that are concerned with maximizing their office space. I am eager to see what the next play will be in the removable client and upgradable display ecosystem.